Mystery Surrounds Police Shooting Of A Black Engineer From Ethiopia

How did Zelalem Eshetu Ewnetu, an engineering student with a perfect GPA, end up dead at the hands of police? His family demands answers amid contradictory accounts.

A young engineer from Ethiopia was shot dead by the police in Los Angeles on April 12 and now his family seeks answers.


First, some background: Zelalem Eshetu Ewnetu was a 28-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia. A student with a 4.0 GPA in Ethiopia, he won a scholarship to study at the University of Idaho eight years ago and graduated with honors in mechanical and nuclear engineering.

The only thing from the day of the shooting that seems confirmed is that Ewnetu was sitting in his car on the morning of April 12. 

The police were in the area, responding to reports of a burglary. It is at this point that police reports of the shooting become complicated and contradictory.

According to the first report, the police smelled marijuana and asked Ewnetu to step out of the car. When he failed to comply and brandished a gun, the police shot him in the torso.

This contrasts with the account of the shooting the detectives gave to Ewnetu's family which said that the gun was found in the back seat of the car, and the back windshield had bullet marks. The official report did not mention police shooting at the back of the car.

The second police report also diverges from the narrative of the first.

The deputies contacted a man sitting in a vehicle nearby.

“The driver exited the vehicle then he broke free from the deputy’s grasp. He went into the vehicle, retrieved a handgun and a deputy involved shooting occurred,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Joe Mendoza said.

According to Mendoza, both deputies opened fire on the man, who sustained at least one shot on his upper body. There is no mention of shots fired on the back of the car.

For now, questions abound. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched in Ewnetu's name.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters

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